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Serious concern for Palestinians refugees in Iraq

UN refugee agency ‘seriously concerned’ for thousands of Palestinians in Iraq

The United Nations refugee agency today voiced serious concern over the safety of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Iraq, some of whom have reportedly been directly targeted and killed in the continuing violence there.

“Over the past week, we have received reports that up to 10 Palestinians have been killed in Baghdad and several have been kidnapped,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva.

“A Palestinian human rights group in Baghdad advised us yesterday that many members of the Palestinian community are thinking of leaving the city and heading toward the borders to seek refuge abroad,” he added.

Some 23,000 Palestinians were registered by UNHCR in Baghdad following the United States-led invasion in 2003. Smaller groups, which have not been registered, reside in Mosul and Basrah. In all, the Iraqi government estimates that there are at least 34,000 Palestinians in Iraq.

Many of them are in a very precarious situation. Some Iraqi parties consider the Palestinians, Sunni Muslims, as enemies although they are not involved in internal strife.

The Palestinians came to Iraq in three main waves – after the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967, and in 1991. They were provided with protection and assistance by the former regime and enjoyed a relatively high standard of treatment that some segments of the Iraqi population considered unfair.

As a result, they have in the past few years faced evictions, threats and harassment and many families have left Baghdad for Gaza, Syria or Jordan.

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